Thursday, December 24, 2009

Apple pie Williams-Sonoma style

I saw the cover of the Williams-Sonoma catalog this fall and it had an apple pie on it with the cut-outs of fall leaves embellishing the crust. I rarely, if almost never, buy something because of a photo I see on the cover of a catalog, but I was in love with the idea of making a pie crust that was actually beautiful.

So, I made Ina Garten's recipe (Barefoot Contessa) and it was delicious. And I had a ball making the fall leaves for the crust. What do you think of it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Olive the Grand-dog

Cameron, my daughter Nicole's husband, outdid himself this Halloween. He found a Wonder Woman suit for our Grand-dog Olive. Need I say more? We laughed til our stomaches ached. Can she get any cuter?!! Olive is pictured here with her proud parents.

One of my favorite girls

John and I got to celebrate Vanessa's 28th birthday with her and her terrific hubby, Brent, in September. I made her Sinckerdoodle cupcakes (yes, they taste like the cookies!) and ate at Spiral Diner in Dallas. We have a tradition that we take a picture of our kids blowing out their birthday candles, so here you have it. Isn't she so beautiful? She looks like a Austrian beauty to me.

Pleasant Places

The last time John and I were at Pleasant Places was for Thanksgiving. And was I ever thankful for the riot of fall color that awaited us there due to the fall rains.

It took but a minute to cut the Mexican Salvia and a few branches of Crepe Myrtle. There are many kinds of Salvia, but this one blooms in the fall with long stalks and velvety purple flowers, all delicately lined up at attention to say "Look at us!". The turquoise pot sits on our dining room table with the table runner that John lovingly picked out for me when he was on a mission trip to Guatamala. Doesn't it look beautiful with the flowers?

Prickly Pears-Splendor of Autumn

The fall in the Texas Hill Country brings vivid visual treats....fall native flowers, elm trees that are golden with the snap of cooler weather, and unexpected fruits. One of my favorites is the prickly pear, which grows on the native cactus almost everywhere the eye can see.

As you can see, the "pears" have a rich, deep red/purple color, which contrasts with the cool green of the cactus pad. The pears sit atop the pads like proud megaphones, proclaiming God's glory via color, texture and flavor. One can make jam from them but I have not ventured that far, due to the prickly needles on the skins. It takes some doing to peel them, so I've chosen to simply feast on them with my eyes. I hope you will, too!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lavender lemonade

One of my favorite beverages is this lavender lemonade. It has only a few calories per glass (from the lemon juice) and has no artifical sweetners!

I picked fresh lavender buds from my best friend Nan's yard, organically grown, of course. Then, I made a simple syrup with Truvia granules and water. When it boiled I added the lavender buds and steeped for around seven minutes. I then strained out the buds and added the simple syrup to lemon juice (I hand squeezed them with a very efficient lemon/lime sqeezer from Williams-Sonoma). I added ice and filtered water to taste. To add a little flourish, I put some of the buds back in the pitcher.

Isn't it beautiful? Can you believe those purple buds make that luscious pink color? And I can't keep my eyes off those buds swirling around in the pitcher.
If you want to create a highly unique and spa/resort-type beverage, this is a sure winner.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cauliflower soup with roasted spices

I know it's been a long time since I've blogged. My Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has reared its head and my creative juices stop flowing when that happens.

But today I took two naps, did yoga and had a pedicure, and that winning combination gave me the unction to put on beautiful classical music and cook. I feel so alive when I can do something that is true to my core.

I made this soup with golden cauliflower, chicken stock, milk, fresh grated ginger and an assortment of whole spices that I roasted and then ground in a coffee grinder. They are: cardamom, cumin, coriander and then turmeric powder.

I put the cooked cauliflower along with all ingredients in my food processor. Then, I heated it up to marry the spices and then cooled it in the frig for a refreshing but spicy summer soup.

Bon apetite!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pleasant Places

When we were at Pleasant Places last week, we drove to Fredericksburg for a couple of plant errands. On the property of one of the plant nurseries we went to was this enormous live oak tree, obviously native to Texas.

You simply must see it to feel its stately and loving grandeur. Can you see me standing next to it in a black t-shirt? Don't I look tiny?

Texas A & M put the oak at 750 years old. Wow! I Googled old trees and one of the oldest-in-the-world recorded trees was 5,000 years old in Utah. It was cut down in 1964.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rose got porcupined!

This morning when I let Rose in the house, she looked a little different, as if she were wearing some kind of silly mustache. Well, she kind of was. She had a run-in with a porcupine and got the short end of the stick, so to speak. I thought she was a little more savvy than that because last night when John shot a skunk (I know, it's terrible) she was curious but knew better than to get to close to its stink.
John pulled the quills out with pliars. It's apparently quite painful for dogs but Rose was the brave Texan and never whimpered. We then put antibiotic ointment on the spots and gave her an Aleve. She loved all the attention! And now we have the quills on display on our hearth with the other natural wonders we've found here at Pleasant Places.

Our new remote office-Pleasant Places

John and I are at Pleasant Places for the week, having set up a trial run of our remote office down here. It's working terrifically, I might add. It gives us the opportunity to work during the day and do chores and needed pruning, mowing, and lots of sitting on the back porch watching the wildlife while it's still light. We love it!

It's been cool here so everything is not super-green yet. I took some pics of a few of the plants that are getting geared up for growth.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Truvia sweetner

Doesn't it look like cane sugar on the scrumptous strawberries? Ah, contrar, my friend, I have finally found a sweetner made from Stevia called Truvia. It's almost exctly like white cane sugar to me! Yipee! It's made by steeping the leaves of the Stevia plant. People have been sweetening foods and beverages with stevia leaves for hundreds of years. The taste comes from a natural ingredient from the leaves called rebiana. Rebiana is what gives Truvia™ natural sweetener its clean, honest sweet taste.
Truvia™ natural sweetener is a great alternative for people with diabetesand is also kosher certified. And all this with zero calories! Thank you Lord!

Dandelions for free!

It's early spring here in Texas, and that means dandelions abound, especially in our yard. I picked some of these edible beauties to add to salads and as you can see in the photo above, to add as a garnish to my grain dish, red rice. Don't you love the pop of intense color and the texture of the petals?

Think of ways to add panache to your presentation of a simple dish by using out-of-the-ordinary containers, such as this martini glass. And I love how easy it is to use a small bowl to mold the rice in and plop it out on a plate. It gives such a finished look to the rice, doesn't it?

You can also eat the green leaves of the dandelion plant. They must be picked when they're very young or they will be bitter.

Bon apetite!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Workin' the land-Pleasant Places

John and I spent the weekend at Pleasant Places preparing for the growing season. There's soooo much to do--mowing (as you can see, Olive and Rose love to get in on the action), pruning lots of perrenial beds, removing suckers via my pole chainsaw, just to name a few. I actually asked for that pole chainsaw for Christmas one year. Hee hee! And lo and behold, Santa gave it to me. It gives you quite an upper body workout, holding that much weight up for periods of time. It does our hearts good to see the ebb and flow of the season at Pleasant Places. It reminds us of the truth in Eccleciastes that there is a time and season for everything under the sun.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I've been making GA-nola (the GA stands for George-ann) since the mid 70's. I don't have a recipe and that should inspire you to realize one does not really need a recipe to make good granola---only a love of granola. The rest will take care of itself.

Simply start by going to a good natural foods grocery store and head for the bulk bins. If you're a novice, start with oats as your base. Then walk up and down the isle and buy about a half pound of whatever looks good to you. Think nuts, seeds, brans. Remember to buy raisins, cranberries or other dried fruit to put in the granola AFTER you have baked it. If you like nuts roasted, then put them in mix before baking. It is indeed true that some of the nutrients are lost in baking, but who can resist roasted nuts? Honey, I ain't one of them.
Then buy some oil and honey, maybe even cinnamon if you like it (good for digestion).

Mix it all together with you hands, of course. Spread on cookie sheets that have sides. It's best to use parchment paper for ease of getting it off the pan and also for clean-up.

Cook at around 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until the desired brown shade that you like appears.
Bon apetite!

Cootie (bless her heart)

Well, it's not easy taking a photo of an all-black dog who looks kind of Goth. I used shipping tape to put a sprig of pink flowers in her hair to give her better depth of field!

But here she is, having come back from the brink of death just a few short weeks ago. She's 14 years young and has good vim and vigor. She just can't see or hear much, but we love her the same. Welcome to George the Granola Girl, Cootie!

Bird feeder fun

I am always looking for special bird feeders. This one caught my eye for two reasons: First, it's easy to use. And second, I get excited when I look at the colors and design, all in a natural medium of clay. And get this, it was only $17.99 at Lowe's. So, be good to your feathered friends and give them something lovely to look at while they eat.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cross Vine-Pleasant Places

This hearty, prolific flower is called Cross Vine. It's drought resistant, which is a must in the Texas Hill country. Isn't it lovely against the blue sky?

Mexican Purple Sage-Pleasant Places

I love spring and summer because I get to take photos of flowers everywhere, especially at our little ranch in Mason county. The pink blooms of the Mexican sage attract butterfiles, as you can see. Thank you Lord for your creation!

Olive the granddog

I'm slowly introducing the family to you, starting with the canine species. This is my granddog Olive. She is unusual in that she can, at any given moment, look like a different kind of animal. For example, sometimes she looks like a baby fawn, or an ant eater, a baby chick and on and on it goes. Strange, really....Anyway, she is such a blast and so cute you just want to gobble her up with kisses, which I do on a regular basis.

Colors, textures and Lady Banks roses

My daughter, Nicole, bought this wrap for me from Anthropologie. Now, what's so wonderful about it is that she grabbed it and said to herself, "My mom would love this!" Isn't she a sweetie? And of course, I DO love it. I draped it over the Lady Bank rose bush after a drenching spring rain. And here's a close-up of a Lady Banks rose cluster. Ahhh!

Rose our rescue dog

I couldn't go long without showing you Rose. She's named after the Yellow Rose of Texas because we found her (abandoned) near the geographical center of Texas. She is the BEST dog we've ever had in our 34 years of marriage. We call Rose the Love Hound...everybody loves Rose.

George the Granola Girl's first ever post!

Wow, is this exciting or what? My daughters Vanessa and Nicole have inspired me to create my own blog. I love reading their blogs and feel that I need to stay current with cultural media that helps me and my loved ones know each other in a greater way. Maybe you CAN teach an old dog new tricks after all!

After an intense 13 years ('91-'04) of starting, growing and running my own business with 15 employees, I was hit with a devastaing illness, chronic fatigue syndrome. We had to reorganize the business, giving me time to see what I could do to find help with healing and recovery. Since '04, I have been crawling my way out of it, and thanks be to our Lord, I am functional again.

I am experiencing a renaissance of sorts. I'm feeling the creative juices flowing a bit now and I have been able to go back to natural foods cooking, light gardening and the love of the outdoors. I even went to the fabric store the other day and bought a pattern to sew myself a long skirt. Earth Mama is back...maybe!!

I wanted you to see the Texas Hill country in the spring. We have a small ranch in Mason county. I took these photos in May 2007, which was a banner year for the wildflowers. When it's warm, the butterflies swarm right above the flowers and it looks like a magical kingdom. Enjoy!